The Clash taught me everything I know about B2B copywriting

 

I know there’ll be some of you reading that headline and thinking: this guy needs a smack on the nose. And a fair few others thinking ‘who are The Clash?’ In response to the first I’d say: bear with me, as this is not as twattish as it sounds, and to the second I’d say The Clash were the greatest band to walk the Earth. If you need convincing of the latter, watch this. So, what am I talking about? One word: authenticity.

 

Write about what’s affecting you, what’s important1

The Clash were pretty much musical year zero for millions of us in the late 70s/early 80s – politics translated into a musical style that took from rock, dub, reggae, 1930s jazz, Elvis, disco, calypso, hip hop and beyond. They were so punk, that the punk purists complained when they moved on from the iconoclastic three-chord style of songwriting. And that’s what made them authentic. They didn’t represent what was in vogue at the time, only themselves. They stood apart from their peers because they stood for something that was real. Issues that resonated. And they did it without posturing (hello Coldplay and U2).

 

It also explains why a band that split up 31 years ago still inspires such fierce, tribal loyalty.

 

What you gonna believe in?

And while I appreciate the heresy of linking the band to IT B2B marketing, we can all learn something from them.

 

All the big IT brands spend an age and a fortune trying to carve out some form of differentiation. But how different – or as marketing would have it – how ‘unique’ are they? Once you’ve looked at their propositions, it’s obvious they’re similar – so the only thing they’re competing on is price. And while that might work for a budget airline or Sports Direct, if you’re supplying complex IT services, that’s a massive danger. Let’s face it, there’s always going to be someone, somewhere working on a start-up who will claim they can do what you do – just cheaper. So, how do you generate sustainable loyalty? By being authentic. And if you don’t believe that, I’ve two names to throw at you: Trump and Corbyn.

 

If you want to look at a brand that’s doing it, then there’s Apple. Regardless of what you think about the company, its products or its slippery market share, it communicates authentically. We all know what it stands for, and why its customers believe it’s different. Now compare that to Dell or Lenovo and tell me what they stand for, or what their customers would say about them.

 

And why is that important? Because authenticity breeds loyalty – and loyalty suggests you may have a future. I read that half of S&P 500 companies won’t be an S&P 500 company in ten years’ time2. Now there’s going to be various reasons for this (new technology, changing consumer habits, managerial ineptitude) but the more that people believe that you represent something that’s real and not just a ‘tangible’ marketing buzzword, the stronger your neck is going to be when the axe is getting sharpened.

 

Separating the wheat from the crap

So if you’re still here, this is where authentic writing and marketing comes in. You’re not going to drive loyalty with meaningless stats or drivel about ‘leveraging’ this or ‘optimising’ that. You’ll do it by making what you do real. That means finding the human truth to a technical subject or another angle to an old problem. And then choosing language that people actually use to explain it. It’s not even that difficult really. All you need is confidence and a finely tuned BS detector.

 

In 1980 I was 14 years old. In the January of that year I bunked off school with my mates Colin and Sharon, jumped on a bus and paid £3 to see The Clash3 play live. It was like a UFO had landed and my mind was promptly blown. My mum and dad went nuts when they found out, but it didn’t stop me doing it the next month when the band played the Electric Ballroom (I think) in London. So why does any of that matter – and why am I still listening to them all these years later? There are loads of bands whose music I like, but only one I believe in. They were authentic. The real deal – that’s why I stuck with them and why they taught me everything I know about B2B copywriting.

 

 

1). Advice allegedly given to the band by their manager

2). Let’s face it, most stats are meaningless but if you are interested, this claim came from here

3). I wanted to use more Clash videos but couldn’t think of a way to shoehorn them in, but this one is great

 

By Ray Philpott | January 18, 2017

Privacy Preference Center

Functional cookies

These cookies allow the site to remember choices in response to actions made by users, such as setting your cookie preferences. We use a mixture of first and third-party cookies. They are not used to track visitors. Please be aware that restricting these cookies may impact on some areas of the website’s functionality.

PHPSeSSID, __cfduid, gdpr

Website Experience cookies

Enabling these first-party cookies is not strictly necessary for the website to work but it will provide you with a better browsing experience. You can delete or block these cookies, but if you do that some features of this site may not work as intended.

VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE,

Reporting/Performance cookies

Reporting/performance cookies collect information on how users interact with the site. These third-party cookies allow us to measure site usage by collecting and reporting information anonymously. This helps us to continually improve site performance and the user experience.

This site uses Google Analytics which is one of the most widespread and trusted analytics solution on the web for helping us to understand how you use the site and ways that we can improve your experience. These cookies may track things such as how long you spend on the site and the pages that you visit so we can continue to produce engaging content.

_ga, _gat, _gid, __utma, __utmb, __utmc, __utmz

Advertising cookies

These third-party cookies are used by advertising companies to serve ads that are relevant to your interests and/or based on your previous interactions with the ads or website (e.g. remarketing).

Cookies may be set by these third parties and used by them to track your online activity and for the purpose of such activity. We have no direct control over the information that is collected by these cookies.

lang, BizoID, UserMatchHistory, r/collect, collect, YSC, PREF, bcookie, bscookie, lidc, NID, IDE

Other 3rd party cookies

These third-party cookies are used to provide you with increased on-site functionality. Here, we are specifically referring to the use of social media buttons and/or plugins on this site that allow you to connect with your social network in various ways. For these to work social media sites including; Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn will set cookies through our site which may be used to enhance your profile on their site or contribute to the data they hold for various purposes outlined in their respective privacy policies

uvc

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?

Are you sure?

By disagreeing you will no longer have access to our site and will be logged out.